Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.
Bülent Ortaçgil - "Suna Abla". In 1973 and early 1974, Nick Drake was alive. In Turkey, Bülent Ortaçgil was alive too. Drake visited France, he visited Milan. Ortaçgil recorded Benimle Oynar Mýsýn. They didn't meet, I don't think. But I like to imagine that Nick changes his plans, that he and Françoise Hardy altered course en route from Bologna. That they made a quiet, secret trip. It looks so difficult, there on the map - by boat from Italy to Greece to Turkey, or by road through the Iron Curtain, through a mess of Eastern European countries. But Nick coulda done it. He could have rented a baby blue car, driven with the windows down, long hours of happiness, his friend Françoise sitting next to him, she singing "Northern Sky" and he smiling at the silliness of it, smiling and driving.
And imagine they make it. They arrive in Istanbul. Françoise has heard about this folk club, down near the university. So they drop in and meet the owner. He's pretty hip, with a long moustache and thick-frame glasses. He serves them a strong tea in small cups. He speaks english pretty good. They ask about music and he says: "Oh-yes, oh-yes. There is music here. Tomorrow night. There is open mic." And they grin at this, Nick and Françoise, at the idea of an open mic in Istanbul. They walk through the streets that evening, smelling smells, seeing mangy cats on old stone walls. In the morning they are woken, in separate rooms, by the muezzin's call to prayer. They walk around, to the market. Nick Drake buys a handful of cardamom pods, just to hold in his hand and smell, till he finally lets them fall off and into the breeze.
When night falls they go back to the club. They are excited, buzzing in their bones, giddy with the feeling of a new city - with the room full of strangers singing songs.
Nick decides to play. He's one of the first and he shuffles bashfully to the stage, taking the offered guitar. Françoise claps heartily. He clears his throat and he plays "Which Will". And he's no more than a few lines in when already there are some murmurs in the room. There are exclamations of surprise, whispers. Nick is not used to having his songs recognised and for a moment he misunderstands, thinking he's offended them in some way. But then he sees the nodding faces; the handful of them that are singing along, under their breath. Some of them know him. Nick's always wanted to be famous, always wanted to have people sing along, but no not here on this day of strangers, on this night in Istanbul. He finishes the song but his face is downturned, hair over his eyes, and he is quiet when he goes back down to sit with his friend and sip his tea. Someone offers them a hookah and he says "No, no," turning away into the shade.
Bülent is next. They all know him there. The Turks clap for their friend. He nods to them. "Thank-you," he says, in turkish. Then he turns to Nick and Françoise. "Welcome," he says to them. Françoise smiles, "Teßekkür ederim," she says, clumsily. Nick says nothing. Then Bülent Ortaçgil plays.
He plays "Suna Abla". He plays it tenderly, carefully, but also gladly: he takes pleasure in the chorus and especially the short syllables at its end. His girlfriend's there on stage, hands held behind her back, relaxed as she sings. "La da-da," they go. Bülent's thinking of Five Leaves Left, which he loves so much, and there's Nick Drake in front of him, Nick Drake hunched over, staring at his fingers. Bülent Ortaçgil sings in turkish but he sings for anyone who will listen; anyone who knows dawns, dusks, entre chien et loup.
Six months later, Nick Drake is dead.
(And Bülent is still performing.)
(Thank you Dylan.)
The Knife - "Heartbeats (OneMusic Session)". The Knife, twice in one week?! Why yes. A year ago, The Knife played on BBC's One Music, and on the show they performed "Heartbeats". It's a strange version, so much heavier than the pinball fizzing of the original, like all of the song's joy has been sunk deep deep in the ocean, where only anchors can trawl. While the synth-lines still run up and down, a voice twisted up in itself, it reminds me more of José González's acoustic cover than of The Knife's original take - they're both tugging the same threads from the song, pulling till there's nothing left in their hands. It's a song for a love dead and buried; yeah, for something drowned.
Dave at Popsheep has posted some lovely tracks by Colin Blunstone, which he says reminds him of Final Fantasy, but there's a ton of Joao Gilberto there, too.
My friend Steph is selling a bunch of funky valentines she designed. I choo-choo-choose you.Posted by Sean at February 2, 2006 6:41 PM
What a wonderful write-up! Sounds great...Posted by Matthew in London at February 3, 2006 8:54 AM
Sean, thank you so much for posting this version of "Heartbeats" - I didn't even know that it existed!Posted by Matthew at February 3, 2006 10:41 AM
Wow, another post from STG that is totally lifted up into greatness - for me that Bülent Ortaçgil write up is up there with the beautiful Camera Obscura post a little while back. Excellent job guys!Posted by Bad Haired Barber at February 3, 2006 10:59 AM
gosh, you have such a way with words. beautfulPosted by icemonster at February 3, 2006 1:08 PM
ah! did you get this from the ilX thread?Posted by TAO at February 3, 2006 1:57 PM
ahh wonderful post you guysPosted by dan at February 3, 2006 8:49 PM
as a new yorker who is originally from istanbul, i totally admired the write up. benimle oynar misin is such a sweet song, hopefully you ll get to post that in the near future as well. i believe you ve been to istanbul before?? also, i love the original heartbeats by the knife, this one you posted sounded a little weird i thought.Posted by cenk at February 3, 2006 10:59 PM
SEAN YOU LYING SON OF A BITCHPosted by Snail Lover at February 3, 2006 11:04 PM
I'm pretty sure that version of "Heartbeats" is the one I'm going to end up with on my end-of-decade lists in a few years - I doubt "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye"-level stateliness makes itself obsolete as quick as arresting chintziness.Posted by James at February 4, 2006 7:50 PM
A lot of obscure foreign music lately....Posted by John at February 5, 2006 3:21 AM
"in separate rooms"Posted by Anonymous at February 6, 2006 12:13 AM
really really good music and the writing was awesome.Posted by cole at February 6, 2006 9:44 AM
1) Didn't get this from ILX although maybe my source did.
2) I had read somewhere that Nick and Francoise were friends, and Wikipedia does confirm that, but then Wikipedia is a lying SOB so who knows.
3) I am glad some of you liked it.
4) re "in separate rooms" - i know!Posted by Sean at February 6, 2006 9:52 AM
I love your Bülent Ortaçgil story. I can definitely see it happening.
So many of the catpower contest submissions were really good. I imagine it would be hard to pick a favorite.Posted by Red Ruin at February 6, 2006 7:39 PM
Haha, Sean, you're right about the Knife - this slow version's ace! It's like Jose Gonzalez covered the Knife version, and then the Knife covered the Jose rendition! Karma? Comeuppance? Who knows - but it's awesome! xxPosted by Nicola at February 7, 2006 7:49 AM
many lovely things come from turkey and this track is no exception. the story really made me smile, being a big fan of nick drake and having lived in turkey briefly. thank you!Posted by lisa at February 7, 2006 9:50 PM
Is it just me, or does the Heartbeats MP3 go silent with a minute to go?Posted by Michael Williams at February 8, 2006 9:36 AM
if you want I can YSI the rest of the 2 tracks from the One Music sessionPosted by TAO at February 8, 2006 9:25 PM
I been a fan of "the knife" since - well since karin was in "Honey is cool" a weird indie band from the outskirts of Göteborg, Sweden sometime in the early -90's - Yeah, you guessed it , I'm Swedish ;) - but this song just blew my mind. totally - beats the album version by miles. oh and TAO - YES please put up the rest of the session on YSI - send it in my mail - just remove NOSPAM - I'd be forever thankful!!!Posted by Pete at February 9, 2006 7:00 AM
Whoa - the girl from Honey is Cool is the girl in The Knife? (!!!) Dan posted a honey is cool song here ages ago, which I still love and listen to a lot. It all comes together!
and i'd love to hear the YSI too.Posted by Sean at February 9, 2006 7:11 AM
Yeah, It's the same girl ;) and "Nach Heart" was a damn excellent track too ;) tho they have done funnier and better - a classic is the immiment "oh my daddy" where karin screams w a little girl's voice - "I want a daddy with sugar on, a sugar daddy..." Sean, add me on msn and i can send u the rest of their stuff if you'd be interested - its my email ;)Posted by Pete at February 9, 2006 7:24 AM
enjoy!Posted by TAO at February 9, 2006 7:47 PM